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Emmett Till Alerts system launched to alert Black leaders about racist or hate crime incidents

Emmett Louis Till

(CNN) — A new alert system has been launched in Maryland to notify Black leaders and clergy about credible threats or hate crimes.

The Emmett Till Alerts system — named in honor of the 14-year-old Black teen who was murdered in 1955, after a White woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, claimed Till whistled at her — is modeled after the Amber Alert system.

The Caucus of African American Leaders unveiled the new system last week during a news conference.

“We have to take hate crimes and terrorist threats seriously,” Carl Snowden of the Caucus of African American Leaders said during the news conference.

When an act of racial violence is reported, Snowden says a team will sort through the details and determine if an alert should be sent out to subscribers to the service. The idea is to allow members in a local community where an act of racial violence or hatred occurs to be able to take appropriate actions to protect themselves and their family.

The alerts are by invite only for now, but Snowden said he hopes others will be able to sign up for the service after a trial period.

“We’re just beginning. We’re going to see how the system works…I suspect what you’ll find is this is going to be replicated nationally very, very quickly,” he said.

The first alert was sent to users, notifying them that the system was officially working. The alert system has low, medium and high threat levels, with the highest-level meaning there is a greater likelihood of violence or death. The alerts will be sent to 167 Black elected leaders, national civil rights organizations, clergy, and other community leaders. The alert system is privately funded, Snowden said, and will cost about $6,000 to operate annually.

During the launch announcement, Snowden said the development of the alert system comes after recent instances of racial hate incidents being reported in Maryland.

Earlier this year, three schools in Maryland were targeted along with several other historically black colleges and universities across the country. This week, Howard University, located in nearby Washington, DC, faced two bomb threats as students returned to campus to begin the fall semester. Earlier this month, racist graffiti was written on doors at the Kingdom Celebration Center, a local non-denominational church in Gambrills, Maryland.

“We see so many incidents of history repeat itself. We have to be proactive,” Snowden said.

Snowden and others say the system is the first of its kind in the country.

“This is a model system for all of America,” Daryl Jones of the Transformative Justice Coalition (TJC) said at the launch.

The TJC is an organization dedicated to rooting out racial injustices amongst other issues of importance to the Black community such as voting rights, criminal justice reform and police brutality.

The system’s unveiling comes weeks after renewed focus on the murder of Till and the decades-old questions surrounding the case with the discovery of an unserved warrant for his accuser and the release of her sealed draft memoir. The details had sparked more scrutiny of how the accounts of her encounters with the Black teen had changed over the years.

A Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Bryant Donham for a role in the kidnapping and murder of Till earlier this month.

“I could imagine if the Emmett Till security alert system was in place that Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner would have had the opportunity to be located,” Jones said.

Civil rights workers James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, in went missing on June 21, 1964 in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and their bodies were found six weeks later on August 4.

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